Monday, December 30, 2013

Fifteen below could not have been any warmer. Time out for an Iconoclast's Christmas in the Adirondacks

The following are just a few of the photographs I was privileged to be able to take up in the Adirondacks during Christmas, 2013:

It seems like there should be much to be said about the staggering beauty of these vistas and peaks, these ice fields and glittering branches.

But suffice it for now as we barrel into a new year--one that will demand every moment of clarity, every once of labor, and every bit of resistance we can muster against not merely the natural gas industry, but against the corporatist interests that would commodify every square foot of our planet.

For me this new year must chart some path to seeing the connections between these industries--I must find that path from the frack pads to the factory farms, from the franken-corn to the industrialization of the oceans, and from the corruptions of governments to the cancerous surveillance that permeates our very lives.

These ligatures will be very complex and messy--but seeing too is a form of resistance.

For now, a moment to pause and take the advice of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. "Look," he said. "Sometimes, you just look."

So, please enjoy. And Happy New Years!

Or better, go outside. Feel the bracing cold.

And decide once and for all to see.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Let's Make 2014 the Year The Natural Gas Industry Became an Endangered Species

First, we pause to say "Hallelujah!" Key portions of Pennsylvania's Act 13 were overturned Thursday, 12.19.13: "Act 13 is the legislation that allowed the state government to supersede local control and mandate local ordinance changes to accommodate natural gas extraction in the state."

But what deserves a double scoop of "Hallelujah!" is the reasoning behind Republican Chief Justice Castille's delivery of the 4-2 decision:

“Act 13’s primary stated purpose is not to effectuate the constitutional obligation to protect and preserve Pennsylvania’s natural environment,” the majority decision read. “Rather, the purpose of the statute is to provide a maximally favorable environment for industry operators to exploit Pennsylvania’s oil and natural gas resources, including those in the Marcellus Shale Formation.”

In other words, Act 13 clearly violates Article 1, Sec. 27, or the Environmental Rights Amendment of the state’s Constitution:

The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.

The reaffirmation of the Environmental Rights Amendment, however, not only empowers local governments with respect to drilling, it also must be seen as an opportunity to empower and reinvigorate the growing movement to put a halt to every other piece of frack-happy industry favoring legislation--including Republican House Representative Jeff Pyle's Endangered Species Coordination Act, (HB 1576/SB 1047) :

The legislation has four main elements: 1) standardizes a state process for listing of threatened or endangered species by formalizing existing resource agency authority via rulemaking; 2) consolidates the listings into a centralized database managed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; 3) grants access to information in the database to planners required to consider the impacts that a project could have or to those involved in conservationist efforts; and 4) protects sensitive data by prohibiting the disclosure of the information to anyone not involved in a development or conservation project. Another benefit of this legislation is that it places the decisions of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Pennsylvania Game Commission under the review of Independent Regulatory Review Commission. As Pennsylvania’s last two remaining extra-governmental promulgated rule making bodies, the right of our concerned citizens to exercise due process in appealing a decision would, for the first time, have a forum to do so with the IRRC. The legislation does not, however, address or direct any establishment of seasons, bag limits, et al. (

But here are the plainly spelled out consequences if HB 1576 passes:

Severely restrict the ability of state agencies to designate any species as threatened or endangered unless those species are first listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Part of the goal of state conservation efforts is to prevent species declines in regions and to head off a federal listing in the first place.

Severely restricts the ability of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) to designate a wild trout stream.

Bring any action by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the PFBC to designate threatened or endangered species, or a wild trout stream in the case of the PFBC, under the Regulatory Review Act. This action would result in significant delay for species listings and stream designations, and politicize decisions that should be made on the basis of sound science.

Remove within two years of the effective date of the bill all species now listed as threatened or endangered at the state level in Pennsylvania, unless the agency is able to re-designate the species under the severe and difficult restrictions imposed by the act. (

In other words, decisions about what counts as an endangered species would depend no longer on scientific evidence and expertise, but on political expediency.

The Endangered Species Coordination Act has much in common with Act 13, but at bottom what they share most intimately is the wholesale trouncing of the Environmental Rights Amendment in favor of, as Chief Judge Castille put it, "a maximally favorable environment for industry operators to exploit Pennsylvania’s oil and natural gas resources" at the cost of the human communities and the ecology of the Commonwealth.

The connection to the specifics of HB 1576 are simple: endangered species of animal and vegetation inhabit--just as their less endangered fellows--the ecologies underneath which lay the Marcellus Shale. Getting to the gas requires the disruption and destruction of that ecology. The critters, flora and fauna are in the way. Insuring a "maximally favorable environment" for drilling therefore requires getting them out of the way, and if they're endangered, well, that could mean their extinction. Too bad. There's money to be made.

The trouble, of course, is that there is no loss of one species of critter or vegetation without potentially affecting the entirety of a particular ecosystem (consider, for example, relationships of predator/prey, parasite, symbiosis, fertilization, etc). Hence, any piece of legislation that so clearly threatens to endanger species already endangered also threatens the ecosystems upon which that species depends--and that clearly violates the Environmental Rights Amendment.

End of story.

It's stunning, in fact, that anyone would append their name to so bald a violation--yet, when it's the gas industry or their own parasites, "bald" seems to be the order of the day:

Since the entirely fake hearings conducted Summer 2013--hearings that allowed for no public comment-- a letter signed by 25 industries, each of whom would directly or indirectly benefit from the elimination of protections for the state's endangered species, was posted in support of HB 1576. Here's just a sample

George Ellis
PA Coal Alliance

Terrance J. Fitzpatrick
President and CEO
Energy Association of Pennsylvania

Lou D’Amico
President and Executive Director
PA Independent Oil &Gas Association

Stephanie Catarino Wissman
Executive Director
Associated Petroleum Industries of PA

Kevin Shivers
Executive Director
National Federation of Independent Businesses

Jacob Smeltz
Electric Power Generation Association

David Taylor
Executive Director
Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association

John M. Becker
Executive Director
American Concrete Pavement Association
Pennsylvania Chapter

Duane Feagley
Executive Director
PA Anthracite Council

Now, we might imagine each of these folks waking up today to the overturning of Act 13 and experiencing an epiphany about the significance of clean air and water--but I doubt it. In fact, what I predict is that they'll double down in the effort to get SB 1576 passed ASAP as a rearguard defense against the people of the Commonwealth--but in favor of the industry that fills their pockets.

Clues to the strength of my prediction were on display at the Empire Beauty School hearing in Pottsville, 8.26.13:

Consider the comments of William J. Parulis of the PA Anthracite Council and owner of WJP Engineers ( who argued that environmental restoration efforts made by the coal industry were actually impeded by the onerous requirements imposed by an endangered species act that actually protected endangered species. In effect, he argued, protecting endangered species was bad for the environment! This is, of course, just another way of saying that environmental protections--including protections for endangered species--are bad for the industrialized extraction industry.


But if we think that Parulis' logic is contorted, we might consider Rep. Pyle's. As reported by Sean Kitchen of Raging Chicken Press (8.27.13):

Representative Pyle claimed that he authored the bill because of a government shakedown against his school district during a renovation project that affected the habitat of the Indiana bat. The school district paid $61,800 to the Indiana Bat Fund and the donation was 0.1 percent of the total budgeted project. At the same time of these events, John Stilley’s – Representative Pyle’s largest campaign contributor – company, Amerikohl Mining, filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the United States Fish and Wildlife Services for a $316,000 donation to the Indiana Bat Fund. (

In other words, Rep. Pyle's motives are, by his own admission, retributive and explicitly consistent with his "largest campaign contributor" Amerikohl Mining.

But Rep. Pyle is not alone in his penchant for graft and corruption.

Here is the list of PA state senators who co-sponsored HB 1576/SB 1047, and the campaign donations they received from the gas industry:

Brubaker $7,900.00
Kasunic $33,500.00
Waugh $3,750.00
Yudichak $6,025.00
Erickson $5,900.00
Rafferty $5,350.00
D. White $94,150.00
Hutchinson $16,350.00
Fontana $3,100.00
Scarnati $359,145.72
Mensch $3,000.00
Gordner $3,800.00
Tartaglione ----
Brewster ----

TOTAL = $522,520.72 in direct gas industry campaign contributions.

Here is the list of PA house supporters:

Pyle $48,961.68
Gergely $13,900.00
Kaufman $1,950.00
Jay Costa $21,850.00
Bloom $648.00
Helm $1,050.00
Harhai $19,800.00
Rapp $3,650.00
Goodman $500.00
Cutler $900.00
Gibbons $3,350.00
Marshall $2,800.00
Harris $1,920.00
Reed $137,532.33 (the winner in the house)

Pickett $7,050.00
Everett $3,590.00
Keller $2,150.00
Swanger $600.00
Knowles $450.00
Metcalfe $40,850.00
Dunbar $4,400.00
Sonney $550.00
Grove $950.00
Krieger $7,450.00
Reese $1,800.00
Stevenson $13,850.00
Neuman $7,800.00
Sankey ----
Causer $7,500.00
Saccone $4,000.00
Rock ----
Godshall $11,000.00

Tobash $250.00
Murt ----
Brown $4,500.00
Paul Costa $4,150.00
Davis ----
Burns $470.00
Daley $7,150.00
English ----
Tallman $250.00
Baker $11,200.00
Barrar $1,200.00
Christiana $7,250.00
Ellis $35,150.00
Evankovich $5,600.00
Kortz $2,850.00
James ----
Kula $1,475.00
Major $6,800.00
Metzgar $1,000.00
Moul ----
Mustio $9,175.00
Oberlander $3,525.00
Toohil $375.00
Snyder ----
Pashinski $1,775.00
Readshaw $4,350.00
Roae ----
Saylor $11,250.00.

TOTAL = $489,022.01 in direct gas industry campaign contributions. That does not include campaign contributions from the coal industry, the factory farm industry, the commercial construction, or any of the ancillary industries that are connected to these industries, or by industry lobbyists and representatives under their own names.

The thing is, this is all pretty predictable.

What's more troubling--and must, I think, keep us from thinking that the overturning of Act 13 is cause for celebrating more than a day is this: despite the fact that the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission both joined Rep Greg Vitali in opposing SB 1576, the latter's director John Arway nonetheless concedes to the gas industry the essential violation of the Environmental Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution:

Arway continued, "As I told the committees in September, we are not the obstacle to development that some have claimed us to be. It takes our staff an average of 30 days to complete Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) reviews in general, with Marcellus reviews averaging less than 20 days and PennDOT reviews averaging less than 15 days. In addition, it is significant to note that of the 16,600 PNDI searches in 2012, only 124, or less than 1 percent, resulted in surveys being requested by our agency. We take our responsibility of advising business, individuals, and other agencies seriously, and we know that the best way to do our jobs is by being as cooperative and timely as possible. "Indeed, our commitment to work with industry is not new. As part of the Natural Heritage Partnership, our staff have been carefully working to develop mapping areas that show the habitat needs of rare species with the ultimate goal of getting the information into the hands of developers early in their decision-making process so they can plan their projects better - saving everyone time and money while protecting the species we are entrusted to conserve." (

This is pro-frack double speak if ever there was. While, on the one hand, Arway insists that the science should govern decision-making about what to classify as an endangered species, on the other, he insists that fracking can be done safely. State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Lycoming, makes the point explicitly, pointing out that "the legislation flies in the face of the legislature's constitutional requirement to protect the environment" (

"We have an obligation to protect the environment," Mirabito said. "It's not a choice; it's an obligation. It's a civil right for the people of Pennsylvania."

The very idea that fracking can be conducted without serious and potentially devastating consequences for sensitive ecologies flies directly in the face of the science which shows to the contrary--particularly given the long term effects for ecologies, including their compliment of species, of climate change.

Mr. Arway cannot not know this. Therefore, the only conclusion to be drawn is that he's opted for what I have called the concession rhetoric of the "middle ground":

The truth can be counted on to lay somewhere in “the middle,” where “the middle” is invariably some “compromise” between opposing factions, and where “everyone” can feel good that their interests have been met more or less in that “middle.” This “truth” via consensus can then be promoted as “reasonable,” and “just” and anyone who seeks to counter it with opposing facts or a challenge to its reasoning can be cast as irrational, an extremist—even a terrorist if they persist in pointing out evidence contrary to “the middle ground” or to the “consensus” alleged in its defense. (

The trouble with this form of reasoning, I argued, is that

truth is entirely independent of the interests of any party. Truth doesn’t care whether folks get their way. Truth is not the product of consensus. Truth is what is supported by an objective evaluation of the facts where the facts have been presented honestly—without exaggeration, cherry-picking, or other distortion—and where evaluation steers clear of fallacious, biased, or interested “reasoning.” Truth does not present itself to us for approval. When the facts do not support what we want to believe, we should change our minds—even if it’s hard. And that’s it.

So as we rightly and raucously celebrate the reaffirmation of the rights of Pennsylvanians to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and enjoy the state's immense ecological beauty, let's also reaffirm our commitment to insist that our representatives abide the Constitution, and that those appointed to be stewards of the environment do their jobs.

Or--better--let's offer very loud and very public memory to this fact:

While the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did make the right call this time, legislation in clear violation of human rights and the rights of ecosystems themselves becomes law far too often. That Act 13, HB 1576, and so many other frack-friendly bills even get out of committee (even get out of the gas-fueled heads of their writers) provides clear evidence that the law itself is drafted for the benefit not of the people, but for the industry. As The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) shows, the history of property and rights in the United States is one which consistently empowers corporations at the expense of communities and individuals.

So, with this in mind, let's get ready for a new year--a 2014 dedicated to re-empowering communities consistent with the right to an environment--to a planet-- not merely sustainable--but the one our grandchildren will leave behind as the most beautiful in the universe.

Wendy Lynne Lee
Shale Justice

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

CADAVER COSMETICS: Penn State's "Marcellus by Design," MCOR, and the Edu-Green-Washing of Big Gas

Penn State just doesn't seem to be able to figure out how to be a university--as opposed to a corporate-sponsored research hub, job training program center, and now green-washing "reclamation" aesthetics authority--for the natural gas industry.

It's old news that Penn State epitomizes Frackademia. As reported by Reid R. Frazier of The Allegheny Front and Olivia Garber of PublicSource in 2011, "the school does not give out the information because companies do not want their competitors to know what research they’re doing — or that they’re sponsoring university research at all." Moreover, "[i]n 2007, Penn State President Graham Spanier lobbied the state legislature to not include {Penn State] under the state’s revamped "Right-to-Know" law... Mr. Spanier said the schools should not have to disclose donor gifts, vendor contracts, intellectual property licensing agreements or the source of the university’s $100 million in corporate sponsored research..."Making details of contracts publicly available will threaten our competitive position with universities outside of Pennsylvania, as well as with private universities within Pennsylvania," Mr. Spanier said." (

No doubt that dollar amount as increased since 2007, and with it the prerogative and influence of the corporations upon whose fortunes Penn State depends. And no doubt that funding will remain as undisclosed as Penn State can make it.

Hence it's just astonishing that since the well-deserved public flogging Penn State suffered over its industry front-group funded 2009 study was exposed as in the tank for the gas--right along with its lead researcher--Tim Considine ( the university has sought to shore up its compromised reputation through the creation of its own industry-sponsored front group, the Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research (MCOR--

University officials say confidentiality makes universities more attractive partners to corporations and, furthermore, the agreements help to educate students. Gas companies fund the research of Dan Kohl, 23, a master’s student in Penn State’s Department of Geosciences. Kohl has a job lined up after he graduates working in Marcellus shale for Chevron. "Who are our main customers? They’re the students," said Mike Arthur, a Penn State geologist and co-director of the school’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research. "Students expect an education that will get them a job." Mr. Arthur helps run a shale gas research group funded by a consortium of a dozen gas companies. The companies pay $40,000 each to fund graduate student projects regarding the geology of the hydrocarbon-rich Marcellus Shale. Funders include large shale gas players such as Chesapeake Energy, Shell and Statoil. A spokesman for Statoil said in an email that the state-owned Norwegian oil company was "interested in collaborating with key North American research institutions" to better understand shale gas formations such as the Marcellus. "Penn State is one of those leading institutions and has a great deal of experience in studying and interpreting the Marcellus Shale," he said. Mr. Arthur says the consortium, the Appalachian Basin Black Shale Group, gives his students real-world experience, working with industry scientists to study problems the energy industry is interested in. "Part of that means we have to work with industry. We have to know, ‘What techniques are they using? How are those techniques evolving? What are the possible hot topics in the future?’ " Mr. Arthur said. "We’re not going to learn this by sitting and reading books. We have to go to the field and go to their laboratories, their conferences." In an email, a Shell spokeswoman said funding research at universities such as Penn State allowed students "to attain the opportunities and experience they need" (

Let's do an easy-peasy deconstruction:

1. "[C]onfidentiality makes universities more attractive partners to corporations": You bet! That way the gas companies can use the universities to (a) externalize the cost of doing research at least partly onto the public, (b) fund "research" specifically tailored to advance their profit-motives, and (c) conceal and/or kill research that does not support (b).

2. "[t]he agreements help to educate students": You bet! At least if what we mean by "educate" is job-training that saves the industry the trouble and expense of having to conduct searches for qualified job candidates, or go to the trouble of training the hires themselves. That Mike Arthur--MCOR director ( refers to students as "customers" really tells the whole story of MCOR's mission--an employment office and public relations firm for the natural gas industry safely edu-washed behind the doors of academia.

3. "The companies pay $40,000 each to fund graduate student projects regarding the geology of the hydrocarbon-rich Marcellus Shale. Funders include large shale gas players such as Chesapeake Energy, Shell and Statoil": You bet they do! $40,000 is a hell-of-a good deal in exchange for a well--trained, fully indoctrinated, uncritical workforce for the gas.

In my 2011 exchange with Penn State Geoscience Professor and self-professed "father" of the Pennsylvania natural gas boom, Terry Engelder, I warned of the "unholy alliance" between the state, the fossil fuel industry, and the university:

Penn State has effectively forfeited its responsibility to act as an independent agent for the public good, and uses the professorial status of one of its celebrity own—Terry Engelder—to legitimate it. Engelder’s “letter to Colleagues” makes marketing look like education—great for Penn State, Inc. Professor Engelder is beholden not to Penn State (other than to legitimate his status), but to those corporations who fund his research into the Marcellus Shale, who fund his graduate student’s future careers, who donate enormous sums to his university—and to his place in history (

Precisely the same can be said about MCOR. Hence it's particularly disturbing that MCOR has been able to secure a 2.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant: "“Marcellus Matters: Engaging Adults in Science and Energy” aims to enhance the general public’s understanding of science, engineering and energy through community-based activities that promote “doing” science, develop local expertise on energy issues and draw on residents’ knowledge of their environment" ( And who is the "principal investigator"? Mike Arthur: "The need for science-based information is critical as discussion about drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale is increasingly contentious, with opponents and advocates claiming "facts" in support of their polarized positions. Without sufficient knowledge to evaluate those "facts," the public is left uncertain about what to believe and who to trust."

Needless to say, we have no more reason to trust Mike Arthur than we do Tim Considine or Terry Engelder, and much remains to be said about the capacity of a big name university to secure NSF funding for projects whose thinly concealed aims are to benefit industry.

But what makes MCOR different are the lengths to which it is willing to put its NSF funding to edu-wash, green-wash--and now aesthetics-wash--an industry whose record of environmental devastation and health hazard are now as well-established as climate change, evolution, and the age of the earth. Indeed, naysayers who decry the ecological damage wrought by hydraulic fracturing and its massive infrastructure are akin, for example, to the manifest frauds perpetrated by The Creation Science Research Institute ( and climate change deniers (

Enter: Marcellus by Design, whose job is not to outrightly deny frack-damage, but rather to call into question whether it's really irremediable. After all, if a dab of green paint, some picnic tablets, and a hedge will make a stretch of pipeline appear visually acceptable, how bad can it all be, right?

Setting aside the fact that the recent (12.4.13) Sullivan County Courthouse workshop sponsored MCOR presentations that "were about cosmetic fixes, and simply disguising industrial infrastructure," that these were the work of primarily undergraduates who clearly had no idea the real issues concerning hydraulic fracturing, and even that these "fixes" were literally as thin as paint--what's astonishing about Marcellus by Design is that Penn State is now conducting outreach, into departments outside geoscience--but inside Penn State, in this case, Interdisciplinary Programs( Brian Orland), and Landscape Architecture (Timothy Murtha). Besides insuring complicity in Penn State's shale aspirations, Marcellus by Design provides another avenue for its claim to "educate." Undergraduates who are not geoscience majors destined to become roustabouts, geo-engineers, or Big Energy execs can now get in on the frack-action by participating in an NSF-sponsored program that takes advantage of their major.

It's difficult to exaggerate the perversity of the MCOR strategy. But the questions left utterly unanswered by the Sullivan County workshop offer a clue. As Shale Justice ( executive board members, John Trallo and Kevin Heatley put just a few of these:

- How the hell are you going to assure desirable forest regeneration when you are creating edge habitat EVERYWHERE!!!!! (all trees are not created equal).

- How are you going to correct the problem with nutrient loading of streams after you cut down "only 2%" of the forest? We are not talking about sediment and erosion - we are talking about changes in stream chemistry when they change deep forest into open field.

- How are you going to maintain viable populations of interior forest dwelling critters like neotropical migrants and amphibians?

- How are you going to prevent population isolation and genetic inbreeding from critters that avoid road and ROW crossings due to predation threat and moisture gradients?

- How are you going to provide for viable corridors for wildlife migration when you are creating a grid of pads, roads, and pipeline ROW's?

- Why are you trying to convince us that ubiquitous species - species that exist everywhere due to human disturbance (deer, raccoons, groundhogs) are a fair exchange for deep forest species?

-What is your restoration plan for interior forest, what is the timeframe and where is the funding source?

- Never mind "beautification" - How the HELL are you going to assure the forest structure and function - the very ecosystem services that drive our economy are going to remain viable!!!

- Is Penn State, the DCNR, or the gas industry going to control invasive species along all this new edge habitat for the LIFE of the OPENING???

- Who is going to pay me to control the invasive species on my property when it migrates off your damn pipeline ROW???

- Mr. Penn State LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT - how are you qualified to address forest sustainability issues? Or is your job just to "greenwash" i.e. throw green paint on a building riddled with termites?

- What about the impact on climate change/climate instability that increased methane leakage and our continued use of fossil fuels?

While these questions indicate the extent to which Marcellus by Design is a green-washing strategy consistent with the industry sponsorship of MCOR, what they don't address is the appropriation of other programs and departments by the industry, particularly programs from which we might reasonably expect criticism of the fossil fuel industry: the arts and the humanities.

Indeed, the very idea that landscape architecture (arguably an oxymoron on its face) can be put to the service of concealing frack-infrastructure behind a facade of green paint, bush plantings, and picnic tables amounts to the substitution of a diorama--a dead museum display--for a living ecosystem. The very idea that we can substitute some lines read by theater professors and their students for the real and heart-wrenching exchanges people are having at their kitchen tables over fracking is, if not simply insulting, absurd.

The website text promoting Marcellus by Design says it all: "We strive to provide a balanced approach to integrating environmental, economic, sociological, and aesthetic dimensions of landscape through strategic research and design. Accepting that Marcellus Shale gas will continue to be a driving force behind economic development in many Pennsylvania communities, we are committed to expanding the breadth and accessibility of knowledge about alternative approaches to landscape planning under current and future gas development scenarios" (

Let's do another easy-peasy bit of deconstruction:

1. "We strive to provide a balanced approach to integrating environmental, economic, sociological, and aesthetic dimensions of landscape through strategic research and design": we are being sponsored by the edu-green-washed MCOR to provide strategies for concealing the real scale of the damage to the environment, community and the possibility of aesthetic and recreational experience wrought by fracking.

2. "Accepting that Marcellus Shale gas will continue to be a driving force behind economic development in many Pennsylvania communities": we are entirely in the tank for the gas.

3. "[W]e are committed to expanding the breadth and accessibility of knowledge about alternative approaches to landscape planning under current and future gas development scenarios": we are committed to insuring the most convenient possible access for the gas companies to the shale fields all the while working to guarantee the least possible outcry from the affected public. And if we can use "landscape planning" as frack-speak for slapping some green paint on some pipeline, we're happy to do it.

What's perhaps the most laughably stunning aspect of Marcellus by Design is that while none of Trallo and Heatley's questions were addressed at the Sullivan County workshop at all, the appeal to "best practices" receives specific attention as justification for landscape design: "Best Management Practices (BMPs) are methods and processes that have consistently shown or produced effective results where they are applied, and serve as a benchmark for making decisions. Over time, BMPs may evolve and develop as better improvements are discovered" ( This is not only demonstrably false, it shows just how naive are the architects of the Marcellus by Design program. And--to be very clear--naive without a shred of excuse.

These are my fellow humanities academics--and it is simply painful to witness their being suckered by so transparently charlatan an objective, especially when it involves the additional suckering of students into the bargain.

Our jobs as academics is not to indoctrinate our students; it is to equip them with the critical thinking skills to evaluate for themselves the relevant evidence and arguments for a claim. To the extent that Marcellus by Design accepts without question that fracking will continue, that it can be done safely, and that there are benefits that exceed the costs to ecosystem and health, and that its students are implicitly encouraged to do the same, Marcellus by Design, MCOR, Penn State act inconsistently with that mission.

Here's my question: What is Marcellus by Design going to do for Jerry Skinner? What are Brian Orland and Timothy Murtha prepared to do to fix the "muddy brown strip of earth [that's] the telltale sign of a buried pipeline" right through his land, or the forest fragmentation that has disrupted and destroyed Pennsylvania's forests? What are they going to do about the 61,000 forest acres in Pennsylvania [that] will be cleared by 2030," or the "additional 91,000 to 220,000 acres of interior forestland near the developed areas" estimated to be affected by pipeline construction?

"Pipelines are going in and dissecting forest habitats and creating corridors within (them)," said Margaret Brittingham, an ecologist at Penn State University who has been studying the impact of gas drilling on forest habitats, concentrating on songbirds in Pennsylvania.

She and others have discovered that right-of-ways enable larger animals to move into parts of the interior forest they had not explored. As a result, interior species become exposed to new predators.

Brittingham and her colleagues predict that as more forest territory is chopped up into smaller pieces, habitat for specialists—species that require a specific set of conditions for survival—will decrease, which may in turn lead to their extinction. Those include the scarlet tanager, the blue-headed vireo and the hooded warbler.

In contrast, animals that tend to do well around people will likely increase in number. Raccoons, deer, crows and blue jays are among them.

"It's a shift in the competitive advantages that you give species," Brittingham said. "It's biotic homogenization."

Yeah for Penn State's Brittingham--she's up against a university whose value for her work pales in comparison the shills of MCOR.

Here are the facts: Marcellus by Design can't do a goddamn thing for Jerry Skinner. And they can't do a goddamn thing for the species of wildlife and other biota destroyed by forest fragmentation.

The only appropriate name for such a project is fraud: the pretense to a benefit where there is none, the fakery of a fix where there is naught but erosion and potential extinction.

It's an easy thing to point out that you can't restore 100 year old trees. And that's true. But it's another thing to try to appropriate university faculty and their students to a project aimed at convincing the public that a pipeline painted green where a forest of 100 year old trees used to be is a fair swap.

It ain't.

Instead, it's the industry's latest advertising campaign--brought to you by Penn State.

"Marcellus by Design": cadaver cosmetics.

Wendy Lynne Lee
Professor, Bloomsburg University
The Shale Justice Coalition

All photographs, Wendy Lynne Lee

Also see:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Barry Yeoman's "The Shale Rebellion": Giving Voice to the Grassroots (

Like all good writing, Barry Yeoman's "The Shale Rebellion" raises at least as many questions as it answers with respect to the emergence of a grassroots movement in the heart of rural Pennsylvania to ban fracking.

At the heart of this movement for Northeast Central Pennsylvania stands Shale Justice--a growing coalition composed of other grassroots anti-fracking groups, large and small, whose mission it is to create the conditions for better organizing, better communication--conditions that ultimately contribute to the one thing capable of monkey wrenching the monied machinery of the natural gas industry: critical mass.

Our aims, in other words, are to arm the people with the single most effective tool for combatting dispersed industrialized extraction: education.

Our even larger aims are to expand that mission to national and global scale. After all, wherever there exists shale--and that's nearly everywhere on the globe--there exists the possibility that an industry whose track record of pollution, criminal dumping, deceit, green-washing, and the evasion of responsibility will be soon to follow.

The "storyscape" of Yeoman's piece certainly contributes to that mission, and it offers much food for thought:

Why is it that many of the the primary organizers at the grassroots level are working women--while the "Big Greens" (what I now refer to as the Big Fake Greens) remain affluent white men?

Why, if 58% of Pennsylvanians support a moratorium on fracking, do our elected representatives remain deaf to their constituents?

What counts as a "special place," as the excellent activist and writer John Trallo puts it, if it's not the earth under our feet?

Why, when the overwhelming evidence points to a future neither desirable nor even sustainable in the face of climate change, aren't more Pennsylvanians demanding to be heard?

Yeoman's right when he writes that "the Shale Rebellion remains—for now—a decentralized movement." As it should.

But as we are witness to the prospect of 100,000 wells just in Pennsylvania--imagine the global implications-- I have to hope that Yeoman turns out to be wrong when he goes on to suggest that this movement has "no uniform goal."

And, of course, there's so much more to be said. As key organizer and activist from the invited occupation of Riverdale points out, the tree sits undertaken by "forest defenders" in, for example, Loyalsock State Forest--planned site of 26 well pads for the notorious Anadarko (Kerr McGee)--are vital to the beating heart of this movement.

Just as the eminent Nelson Mandela saw that there could be no "regulated" apartheid, no compromise on injustice, no "middle ground" on institutionalized bigotry, so too there can be no "regulated" destruction of the necessary conditions of life--water and air.

There can be no compromise on the injustice suffered by folks like Deb Eck.

There is no middle ground when the stakes are a habitable planet and a future for our children.

"What do I tell my kids?" asks Bob Deering.

Tell them what Mandela taught us all:

We can either stand up against injustice, or we can lay down and hope our children never ask us why.

What could be clearer?

Wendy Lynne Lee
Shale Justice

For a set of photographs specifically selected for Yeoman's storyscape, please see:

For photographs of the invited occupation of Riverdale, please see:

For photographs of the CYNOG Compressor at Janet Hock Road, Davidson Township, Sullivan County, PA, please see:

For Photographs of the EXCO pad at Lairdsville, Rt. 118, Pennsylvania, please see:

Thursday, December 5, 2013



The following is an excerpt from a forthcoming article, "Sustainable Wasteland," scheduled to be published in 2014--but more importantly, it inaugurates a new series devoted to dismantling the concept of "sustainability" as the greenwashing masquerade of an industry that would convince us that "reclamation" means planting grass and laying down straw where 100 year old trees used to stand, that painting natural gas pipeline forest green is forest restoration. I have coined the phrase cadaver cosmetics to signal that what underlay the"landscape architecture" of the fracking industry's notion of "sustainability" is nothing but powder on the face of a corpse that was once an ecosystem.

Some refer to the effort to conceal a bad deal as if it were a good one as "lipstick on a pig." But in that case, we're at least invited to imagine a living porcine as opposed to an asphalt parking lot where a living and vibrant habitat for vegetation and wildlife used to be.

Not so with the dispersed industrialization of the natural gas industry. Painting pipeline green, planting shrubbery to conceal frack pads on state forest lands--this all may be the "new" "aesthetic" of sustainability. But fact is, a better image might be lipstick on a dead pig--or even better a dead planet.


A recent—an increasingly common—news story, “A new angle on cleaning up Passaic River: Swap your catch for a cleaner Fish,” illustrates neatly the extent to which “sustainability” is quite literally cadaver cosmetics:

In what critics call a desperate bid to avoid the most expensive toxic cleanup in New Jersey history, the companies responsible for polluting the Passaic River are promoting a plan they say will help keep people safe: swapping contaminated fish pulled from the river with healthy ones. The companies responsible for polluting the river want to clean up hot spots like this one, instead of fully dredging, while offering clean fish to anglers. Some of the highest levels of cancer-causing dioxin in the Passaic River have been found in mudflats in Lyndhurst. The plan would involve a less-extensive cleanup along with the establishment of an indoor fish farm so anglers along the Passaic — one of the most polluted rivers in the nation and a federal Superfund site — can exchange the fish they catch with fish that are safe to eat. (

The “sustainable remedy” proposed by industry to avoid paying up to 3.5 billion dollars for the actual restoration of the river ecosystem is to offer fisherman a trade of their toxic fish for “clean” fish redeemable at a local grocery. Besides the obvious absurdity of this “solution,” namely that it will achieve nothing with respect to restoring the river, it also makes a mockery of the very experience of fishing the Passaic. On this “remedy,” the possibility of meaningful experience is reduced to a cosmetic—shallowly decorative—pretense to the experience of actually fishing on the river. Imagine casting your line, waiting patiently, reeling it in, casting again, getting a tug, retrieving your fish—and then heading off to a grocery to exchange your toxic cadaver catch for something edible.

Few will find such a solution desirable because, besides gutting the fishing of the fun, few will be convinced that any such plan offers a future river with any of the value of the past. Nonetheless, such a remedy is perfectly sustainable given that the aesthetics of sustainability require nothing beyond mitigation, “beautification,” or, in this case, mercenary substitution.

The example of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) makes a similar point in a different way. Casting itself as a middle ground in the contentious debate over hydraulic fracturing (fracking) “whose mission is to support continuous improvement and innovative practices through performance standards and third-party certification,” CSSD claims to focus “on shale development in the Appalachian Basin,” and provide “a forum for a diverse group of stakeholders to share expertise with the common objective of developing solutions and serving as a center of excellence for shale gas development” (

Sounds good—except for that, given that there is no such thing as the sustainable development of a fossil fuel, CSSD can offer no more to the citizens of the Appalachian basin than its sister industries can offer to fishers of the Passaic River. However savvy the rhetoric, CSSD is just another version of cadaver cosmetics in that is simply exploits the language of “sustainability” in order to greenwash and thereby promote an industry—industrialized extraction—responsible for climate change. That Chevron, a corporation responsible for some of the world’s most egregious human rights abuses is included along with Shell and Consol (, on the CSSD list of “strategic partners” is at least troubling, but more important here it speaks to a “sustainability” not merely gutted with respect to usefulness in the effort to imagine a desirable future—but in fact wholly cop-opted by the institutionalized machinery whose actions will insure that future never materializes.

Here's the moral of this--and countless more stories:

We must abandon the vocabulary of sustainability.

We must do so not simply because it doesn’t get us enough to make fishing in the Passaic desirable, or because we recognize the inherent contradiction in “sustainable shale,” or even because we recognize the language as co-opted by an industry as wholly mercenary in its profiteering as it is transparent in its attempt to avoid responsibility for the damage it causes.

We must do so because “sustainability” is inconsistent with a radically re-valued human-centeredness, one through which we can articulate a future worth wanting, a centeredness that takes justice, human integrity, ecological stability, and biodiversity seriously enough to see that “desirable” does not mean “survivable,” but rather demands that the possibility of aesthetic experience be available to our children’s children.

We must do so because a future without the possibility of wonder at the staggering beauty of this planet and its immense diversity--its endless cornucopia of the beautiful and the awesome--is not a future worth the risk to realize it.

This future might well require a revolution to achieve—one that begins not only with stripping away the cosmetic cover of the cadavers that polluting industries leave in their wake, but with the creative labor only a creature epistemically situated with the wherewithal to imagine that future can undertake.

This is a fancy way of saying "It’s on us," and we can either suck up to “sustainability” and ignore the potential for ecological collapse courtesy of anthropogenic climate change, or we can begin the hard work of self-reflection that leads to the outraged laughter of the fisherman as he spits out the words “sustainable remedy” as if they were dirt in his teeth.

Bolts painted green on a pipeline hatch cover are "sustainable." But they're cosmetics on a cadaver. And the moment we are convinced that they're the "sustainable remedy" to replace, say, the wonder of witnessing uninterrupted forest in the quiet of a mountain dusk, we're dead already.

Sustainable? Get out the lipstick.